FC Buffalo is entering their third season in the National Premier Soccer League. The NPSL is roughly on the same level as the USL-Premier Development League under the USL-Pro. USL-Pro, the third division, is the league the Rhinos play in and FC Buffalo is an amateur team in the the de facto fourth division of American soccer.
FC Buffalo, nicknamed the Blitzers, joined the NPSL in 2010 and played in the Northeast Conference Keystone Division for two seasons. Their divisional rivals last year included the Erie Admirals (Erie, PA), FC Sonic Lehigh Valley (Bethlehem, PA), Reading Revolution (Reading, PA), AC Crusaders (Egg Harbor Township, NJ), Pocono Snow (East Stroudsburg, PA), Buxmont Torch (Souderton, PA), and New Jersey Blaze (Monmouth Junction, NJ).
For the 2012 NPSL season, FC Buffalo and former divisional rival Erie Admirals join several expansion teams in the newly created Great Lakes Division of the Midwest Conference. The expansion teams are AFC Cleveland (Cleveland, OH), Detroit City FC (Detroit, MI), and Greater Binghamton FC (Binghamton, NY).
FC Buffalo, like most NPSL sides, draw much of their roster from local colleges. For this reason, the season doesn’t start until the end of May. In 2010, FC Buffalo played 12 league matches between May 29 and July 11. The team’s 13 games in 2011 were during a similar time frame, May 22 to July 17. This year the regular season runs from May 13 until July 6, with divisional playoffs to follow.
Standout high school players from New York State Public High School Athletic Association Section VI have made up the core of the FC Buffalo team. In 2010, Iroquois High School graduate Eric Steinmetz helped to control the midfield while Akron HS’s prolific striker Andy Tiedt, who holds the New York state single season record with 63 goals in his senior season and ranks 9th all-time for career goals with 126 in four years, continued his tallying for FC Buffalo and Kendall HS’s Jason Gaylord stabilized the back line.
Other former FC Buffalo players include Kristian Witkowski, who signed to the Philadelphia Union of MLS this season, and Niagara University forward Carl Haworth, who was selected by the Montreal Impact. Dan Stevens was a major part of the 2010 team and plays year round for PS Kemi Kings in Finland’s Ykkonen and the Syracuse Silver Knights of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
FC Buffalo head coach Daniel Krzyznowicz is deep in the process of putting together the 2012 roster. Arguably the biggest addition to the FC Buffalo squad is former F.C. New York and Rochester Lancers defender Josiah Snelgrove. The 25 year old native of New Brunswick, Canada, is a graduate of Houghton College and has also played two nonconsecutive seasons with the Charlotte Eagles of USL-Pro.
Important returning players include forward Cory Cwiklinski, stalwart defender Mbwana Johnson, and Chris Walter. Binghamton Bearcats captain midfielder Ryan Walter will be joining his brother at FC Buffalo this summer.
Three former Canisius College midfielders JJ Hughes, Samuel Guilbert and Matt Waddington will join two current Golden Griffins Ryan Schroen and Derek Maier. Steven Carcaterro and Pablo Ordonez are also students at local Buffalo area colleges. The team has added Tompkins Cortland Community College midfielder Josh Piger and Akron HS graduate Peter Duerden. Other additions include Marco Stencel, a University at Buffalo graduate and Josh Hall, a graduate of Medaille college.
Jordan DiLapo, who will attend Loyola University in the fall, returns to the team before his high school graduation in June. The goalkeeper plays for FC Buffalo while still a student at Orchard Park High School. He will be joined in net by 6’5″ Brian Wagstaff, who attended Chenango Valley HS, and Eric DeHond, the 6’4″ Penfield HS graduate and keeper for Houghton College.
On Tuesday May 8, FC Buffalo will travel to Sahlen’s Stadium to take on the Rochester Rhinos in an exhibition match. Last year, the Blitzers made the same trip last year and there is a video of the first half on youtube. I wouldn’t really recommend watching it because the highlights are few and far between and a combination of wind and screaming children make the audio difficult to bear, but here’s the url anyway.
Because of the number of additional teams in 2012, the NPSL underwent divisional realignment and as such FC Buffalo could not represent their 2011 division in qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup. For this reason, the Blitzers will not be competing in the Cup this year, but they’re looking to come back with a hunger in the 2013 competition. In addition, several teams in NPSL will begin to pay players this season. But since FC Buffalo’s line up is heavily stocked with college players, the team will continue to hold amateur status so their players do not lose their NCAA athletic eligibility.
Coach Krzyznowicz seems to be putting together a very competitive squad. If you live in or near Buffalo, be sure to check some of the team’s matches at the All-High Stadium at Bennett High School, 2885 Main Street. FC Buffalo’s season opener is at home against Detroit FC on May 13.